“You see all of us go through the same doubts. We are afraid of being mad; unfortunately for us, of course, all of us are already mad.”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

Suggested Price

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Iulia has communicated to me that there is an issue with money around the upcoming Yoga workshop, specifically that some people have expressed a feeling that the price is too high. I am going to try to speak to that in this post.

If you are looking for a short answer that will give you immediate satisfaction then you are probably going to be disappointed. If you are interested in reflecting on this subject with me then I invite you to read on.

I’ve been reflecting, thinking and inquiring a lot into money in recent years and I am, as I write these words, in my 2nd reading of Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics (which has been translated to Romanian) and before that David Graeber’s Debt: The first 5000 Years.

Personally …

My relationship with money has been difficult for as long as I can remember it. When I opened my first bank account I put in 100 shekels (the Israeli equivalent of the lei) and, following my father’s advice and common wisdom I put it all into a short-term savings plan … and immediately found myself in debt of 20 agorot (the Israeli equivalent of bani) due to the cost of the transaction. Though even by then I was under the impression that money is hard to get, that you can never have enough and it is an endless source of worry and anxiety.

Even when I had a good career and I was getting paid a good salary and living a modest life I felt insecure. I felt I had to carefully measure how I spent money and I was always worried what would happen if I were to lose my job … how would I manage financially. I ultimately ended my career when I realized that 1) no matter how much money I was making it wasn’t enough to meet anything that felt remotely close to financial security and 2) that I was unhappy in my pursuit of this ghost called “financial security”. So I decided to set it aside and give myself a chance at happiness.

To make a long story short (er) … happiness found me (at least for a while) but living even a modest life in a western-priced country continued to be expensive and insecurity took over once again. This time with a sharper bite … money was running out … and then it did … run out.

By then my questions about money had transformed into a single very different question. In my mind money came to represent a relationship between me and the community or society I lived in. Not having money meant not having a relationship with the society I lived in. Offering my gifts and being rejected meant that the society I was living in didn’t need or didn’t value my gifts. Either way it became a question about relationship and community … it was no longer about money itself.

To make an even longer story short(er) … my hope in coming to Romania was to create a life in which money would have a smaller role. For the most part, that has, in a surprising way and via a demanding journey, happened. Now I am in a place where insecurity is slowly starting to be replaced by security (though that journey is far from over). However one of the few things missing in this new life is me being able to express my gifts.

Gift

Charles Eisenstein (and others) speak about a gift-based economy. My impression is that many people interpret this in a superficial way to mean an economy in which things are given as gifts … “for free” … as in without an exchange of money. I think that is misunderstanding and can be misleading.

I believe that a gift-based economy describes a world in which people live their lives in their gifts. Underlying this view is a belief that we are all gifted in some special way, that we are here to manifest our gifts and that doing so brings us to an experience of fulfillment and alignment with a sense of purpose.

One of my gifts is Yoga and living in a Romanian village (with a basic grasp of the Romanian language) doesn’t offer me an opportunity to express that gift. Iulia’s invitation to give a weekend workshop in Targu Mures is an exciting opportunity to be in my gift.

That still leaves us with a question of exchange and how money fits into it.

Giving as a Means of Exchange

Before diving into money I do want to touch a bit on “gift” as an act of giving. Though we are typically taught that before money came barter (10 chickens for one goat) but it turns out that is not true, it is a disproved assumption (there is evidence that proves otherwise) at the heart of modern day economics.

A more typical form of exchange was an a network of giving that creates debt(!) within a community. This form of exchange taps into an interesting human quality: responding to generosity with more generosity … wanting to give back more than you are given. The reason for this, it turns out, isn’t some deep sense of altruism but rather an intuitive understanding of indebtedness (very different than money-based debt because it doesn’t have to be quantified). If I help you in your time of need, you will want, in return, to help me.

However, the threads that tie a community together are not the actual exchanges but the resulting (unquantified) debts. A community is a collection of debts – when everyone owes everyone else something. All those small (or large) debts create a continuous sense of dependency and relatedness. An exchange based on money is one in which all debts are canceled and there is no need for further relationship. If I bring bottled water to my neighbor when I go drive to the village center she wants to give me something in return … maybe eggs … and she will give me a generous number of eggs … and I will want to help her again … and so on and so on. If I buy eggs from an old woman in the village market there is no need for relationship between us beyond that limited exchange. (Do you care about your supermarket, who owns it, who made the produce, who stocked the shelves, the woman at the checkout counter?, etc …)

For an exchange based on giving there needs to be relationship – a community. There needs to be a web of continuous, trusted relationships over time for giving to be able to flow. Such an exchange is not likely between strangers who may never see each other again. Indeed, the evolution of money is tied in numerous ways to wars. A debt based giving exchange may have existed in historical villages but when a soldier passed through a village, you wanted him to pay in coins … you may never see that soldier again, he may be dead by tomorrow … he is not someone with whom you want to form a long-term reciprocal relationship.

I am recalling two realizations that surprised me here in the village. The first realization surprised me in its obviousness: that it is easier to give something of which you have in abundance. If I have a generous yield of pumpkins it is easy for me to give pumpkins. The second realization struck me as disappointing … most giving in the village is indeed a means of incurring (or paying) debt … there is very little gifting.

So it seems that “gift economy” is a misleading name  because it is really based on debt which is incurred through giving so maybe it should be called a debt-economy?

… which brings us to money as a means of exchange.

Money as a Means of Exchange

There are many definitions and applications of money. One of them is as a means of exchange. This can be a slippery subject to approach because we take money for granted without really knowing what it is and how it is created. I would like to try to see money in a different way … money as an expression of giving which does have a sense of community and gifting … lets let the rubber meet the road and apply this to a real scenario … a Yoga workshop in Targu Mures.

We are going to come together … I don’t know any of you and you don’t know me (though some of you may know each other). Hopefully the workshop will be a good and valuable experience for you. I am looking forward to sharing with you teachings that are precious to me and to do it in a way that will make them precious for you. You will naturally want to give something in return and you will want to do in a spirit of gift … you will want to feel generous and you will want to maintain a sense of continuity, relationship and community. How to do this?

Since we are not (yet!?) part of a continuous living community you are not likely to have something that I want or need (you barely know me, how can you know what I want or need). Therefor, suppose you could give me a token of your appreciation – something that says “this is to indicate you have given me something valuable and I am indebted to you”.

That token could be symbolic … to you. I could hold on to it until a time in the future where we met again and you gave me something I want or need and I would return the symbolic token to you. Or maybe you have a friend which is indebted to you (you have a symbolic token that friend gave to you) and your friend gave me something or did something for me and in return I gave your friend the symbolic token you gave me. Now you and your friend each hold a symbolic token from each other … and this is where things can get interesting. You can exchange your tokens and cancel your debts to each other … and bring that flow to an end. Or you could hold on to those tokens, stay indebted to each other and trade those tokens with others … allowing your giving (debts) to continue flowing.

Now lets say we want to “go with the flow”. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have tokens which are symbols that we all agree one … that represent a shared sense of value? These tokens could flow farther, smoother … they would be easier to exchange … that could touch more people. Money is such a token … or it can be … if we can gently move away from the less pleasant qualities we associate with it.

Suggested Price

To make this experience softer for me and for you I have chosen to do experiment … to transform an exchange of money into a softer token … to give us all an opportunity to reflect on our relationship to each other and our relationship with money.

This is why the workshop has a suggested price and not a fixed price. A suggested price communicates to you a reflection of my valuation. A suggested price invites you to make your own choice. This reflection will be much more relevant after the workshop … when you have a direct sense of experience. Setting your own price gives you an opportunity to reflect not just about a number, but about value, giving … and money itself. It is an opportunity to inform a relationship with me, with Yoga, with your own practice, with money, with giving.

I realize that this may be challenging for you … it is for me too. The world we currently live in feels out of alignment in many ways. The money system we live in has made money scarce and stuck instead of abundant and flowing. I am opening myself to exploring a new story and new relationships and by offering a suggested price I am inviting you to join me in that exploration.

If this workshop shimmers for you but you are thinking to yourself “I can’t afford this” … then think again … it isn’t true … it is a limitation you place on yourself. Though there is a registration fee, how much you give is ultimately up to you. At the end of the workshop you can decide how much to give. You can give the suggested price, you can give more, you can give less. If you feel it is right you can ask for a refund of your registration fee and pay nothing. I trust myself, I trust my teachers, I trust the teachings I have been given … and I trust you.

 

Posted in Expanding, inside, Money, outside, Yoga, Yoga & I | You are welcome to add your comment

Yoga Teacher

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“What do you do?” is one question (of a few) I don’t look forward to encountering. The question seems to imply that I should to be doing something. It also seems to imply that if I am doing something it needs to be something specific that fits into a coherent, preferrably short & simple title. Even when I had a “career” which I could have leaned on for a clear answer I never felt comfortable with the question nor the answers it provoked. I felt that I was being asked to put myself into a nice, clearly defined box which always seemed to leave out some parts of who I am.

For the last … I would say third of my life … I feel I’ve been blessed with diverse and rich experiences. I’ve had opportunities to experience myself in different contexts, to see myself from different perspectives. I (and I think people who know me well) can sense there is a thread that brings it all together … however it is elusive and very difficult to put into words.

However, during this last third of my life (even longer) I have also been in a relationship with Yoga – studying, practicing and to some extent teaching.  While still living in Israel I taught a few groups, but felt that I was being asked to be more of a “Yoga entertainer” then a “Yoga teacher”. Most people seemed to expect me to provide an experience that confirmed with what they wanted Yoga to be, few seemed genuinely interested in inquiring into what Yoga is. There was a gap between my interests in Yoga and the expectations I faced as a teacher … a gap I had difficulty bridging. So I stopped trying (except for, over the years, one-on-one students with whom I’ve had precious interactions).

And yet … I am surprisingly comfortable describing myself as a Yoga practitioner and teacher. When I do teach Yoga, or even just find myself in a conversation where someone is interested in Yoga, I feel vibrant and alive … as if I’m doing something good … something I should be doing … with a clear sense of purpose … and actions that flow smoothly from me. I’ve done (and do) other things too … but almost everything I do is either in alignment, or comes into alignment, with my Yogic views. Yoga shapes and is expressed in almost everything I do. And so … if I have to be something, at least for now … I am a Yoga practitioner and on occasion teacher.

… and suddenly I find myself facing a new invitation … a first of its kind … I’ve been waiting for it so long that I have sometimes forgotten that I am waiting. Iulia asked me “When are you coming to do a weekend workshop in Targu Mures?” … not “if”. And so for the first time I’ve put together an offering that is in alignment with me. An offering that I feel respects my teachers and the teachings they have offered me. An offering that I feel respects the people who come to share in the teachings I have been given. I am touched and excited to have been asked to offer this weekend Yoga workshop. I am intrigued that it is taking place in what may well be my karmic-home-town of Targu Mures.

IntroductionToYoga_FacebookBanner_03b

Introduction to Yoga: a Living Practice

Purpose

This weekend workshop will cover basic concepts of Yoga. It is intended to provide a core understanding and experience for people who are interested in welcoming Yoga as a regular practice integrated into their lives.

Previous experience of Yoga is not required. Practitioners with past experience are welcome to join and revisit foundational ideas of Yoga and their own practice.

The weekend will be guided by Ronen Hirsch. Ronen has been practicing Yoga for over 15 years. His teachers are Paul Harvey (UK) and Ziva Kinrot (Israel) who carry forward a Viniyoga tradition developed by T Krishnamacharya and his son TKV Desikachar.

If you can breath and are curious about life or yourself you are welcome to join.

Topics

The weekend will include practice and conversation around:

  • Yoga views on philosophy and psychology: mind & body come together in practice.
  • Viniyoga: adapting Yoga practice to individual needs, circumstances and abilities.
  • Yoga and life: taking yoga beyond a practice mat and into daily life.
  • Basic asana: learning to move correctly, safely and effectively.
  • Basic breath: ujjayi breathing and its relationship with movement.
  • Basic pranayama: introduction to breathing practices.
  • Practice planning: lightly touching on the potential of creating practice sequences.
  • Yoga as meditation: nurturing meditative qualities in practice.

The program will be given in English (with some group support in translation to Romanian when needed).

Please address questions about workshop contents and practices to iamronen@iamronen.com.

What to Bring

  • Stationary
  • Yoga mat & 2 sitting blocks*
  • Comfortable clothes,(layers for regulating warmth)
  • Food for yourself

* It is useful to have two blocks sized ~ 20 x 20 x 5 cm that can be stacked or used individually as needed. There are standard (thicker) fitness blocks available online in Romania (here and here). We were able to find a local foam producer who is able to provide us with blocks cut to size for 12 lei / block. If you are interested in these blocks, please let us know when registering how many blocks you wish to purchase (recommended 2 per practitioner).

Schedule 3-5 April 2015

  • Friday,3rd of April, at 11:00 – 17:00
  • Saturday, 4th of April, 09:00 – 17:00
  • Sunday, 5th of April, 09:00 – 16:00

Registration

  • Location: Targu Mures. Exact location will be communicated in time to confirmed participants. If you come from outside Tg. Mures, we can arrange sleeping places here (informal, welcoming friends, for free). When you register, please let us know if you need this.
  • A suggested price is 540 lei / participant. If you choose to come together with your partner / a friend the price will be 900 lei for both. Please send a registration fee of 180 lei to reserve your place no later then 20 of March, 2015. At the end of the program you are invited to adjust the price accordingly to your experience.
  • To register contact Iulia at iulia.sara@gmail.com. Please include your name, email address and phone number, for keeping in contact for further details (location, registration fee, etc.).

1 On 1

The workshop will lay foundations for taking up a personal practice in day-to-day life. On the day following the workshop Ronen will be available for face-to-face 1 on 1 consultations for individuals that wish to introduce a tailored daily practice into their lives.

It will be possible to schedule consultations during the weekend workshop.

Posted in Yoga, Yoga & I, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to add your comment

Greek Leadership – Fruits of Austerity?

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Though the Greek prime minister in this video describes austerity as a failure. I would argue that at least in one sense austerity has been a success … there is a new Greek prime minister who is direct, realistic, able to address painful truths and to do softly (even when facing an ultimatum). He is subtly saying that like austerity, ultimatums are also irrelevant – that no forceful attitude will change the difficult and unrelenting financial reality Europe has gotten itself into. He has realized that the old story has failed and is trying to invite his European colleagues to co-create a new story.Regardless of the fruits of actions, his effort is refreshing.

Is this telling of a new emerging flavor of leadership? I enjoyed this.

source

Posted in AltEco, Intake, Money, outside | You are welcome to add your comment

Armies as Market Makers

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In Debt: The First 5000 Years David Graeber highlights a recurring historical pattern that emerged in different cultures around the world: armies as market-makers. When  a conquering army is sent out it needs a lot of supplies to keep it going. Instead of having to provide supplies kings / emperors / what-nots would 1) pay the soldiers with coins; 2) require peasants (food suppliers) to pay taxes using only those coins; 3) which would force the peasants to provide supplies to soldiers who would pay with said coin which could then be used to pay taxes. As a result, successful conquering armies were correlated with control of mines which would provide the metals needed to press coins.

Then it includes this quote from Kautilya‘s Arthashastra (over 2000 years old):

“The treasury is based upon mining, the army upon the treasury; he who army and treasury may conquer the whole wide earth”

That neatly summed up why I feel Bitcoin is a failed currency from its inception. Bitcoin is a highly centralized system where the kings are engineers. It is bound to become more centralized as mediators such as online-exchanges make the technology available compete for added-value market share.

But more then than, I feel that the most challenging aspect of currency (mainstream or alternative) is the question of backing. I feel it is the most neglected aspect of innovative new currencies. What backs a currency? Time-banking exemplified a good answer (hours of work can be exchanged) but limited in its application because it tramples value (not all hours are equal).

 

Posted in AltEco, Money, outside, Tech Stuff | You are welcome to add your comment

Greece: The End of Austerity?

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It is a somewhat refreshing video … maybe a preview of what is coming when social and political systems are pushed to extremes? There is hope in it … but I also have doubts. Nationalism makes me uncomfortable, passion and slogans don’t last long … but the effects of separation that are built when they are used in politics do accumulate and last.

I don’t trust solutions that are based on an us and them mentality. Us of the south and them of the north … is not a good starting point … and probably incorrect. If there is an us and them in this story … them is more likely to be IMF and other hostile banking institutions that exist beyond nationality. They are hostile everywhere (north and south) and they have vested partners with vested interests everywhere (north and south). And if we are shifting from a nationalistic view to an economic them … then we are all in this together … we are all participants and co-creators (even if passively and by default) of the economic system. As tempting as it may be to think of an “evil them” … I don’t believe that can lead to substantial change.

I would like to see a new kind of awakening. An awakening that is soft-spoken, that looks inwards, that takes responsibility, that sees connection and relatedness, that demands inner change (in addition to outer change). Can existing socio-political systems manifest and carry such expression? I don’t know.

One thing is for sure … what is happening in Greece may be a potential beginning of an end to austerity … at best.

GREECE: THE END OF AUSTERITY? from Theopi Skarlatos on Vimeo.

Posted in AltEco, Business, Intake, Money, outside | You are welcome to add your comment